On August 1, 2020, Senior Research Fellow William Rinehart had a conversation on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal with host Jesse J. Holden about last week’s big tech antitrust hearing implications.
Why is the Antitrust Subcommittee hauling in these tech CEOs?
In a joint statement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline explained the purpose of this hearing,
Since last June, the Subcommittee has been investigating the dominance of a small number of digital platforms and the adequacy of existing antitrust laws and enforcement. Given the central role these corporations play in the lives of the American people, it is critical that their CEOs are forthcoming. As we have said from the start, their testimony is essential for us to complete this investigation.
Each of the four companies face dramatically different competitive concerns. Facebook will likely be grilled over its acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as efforts “by Facebook to cut off companies from its social graph.” Google is under investigation by a group of state attorneys general and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for its ad business. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos will be questioned on a Wall Street Journal report that suggested employees could access third-party seller data. However, the company said that its teams were restricted from it. Finally, Apple will be interrogated about the commission it charges for the app store.
What’s next for the Antitrust Subcommittee?
While tech companies need to be held accountable when they harm consumers, this hearing should be used for its intended purpose, to answer lingering questions that would help close the investigation and issue the committee report.
While this report is sure to include suggested legislative changes, members of Congress need to be careful. As I cautioned in an op-ed that appeared in The Hill in March,
[T]he FTC and the Department of Justice are investigating the biggest names in tech, including Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook. We should wait until these investigations have run their course. Only then will we know if the laudable intentions behind this recent reform proposal will actually tackle the problem.
That game plan is still the best one.
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